Bath Tub – West Heath – Birmingham 1937
THE BATH TUB, was a lovely oval pool in West Heath, opened July 1st 1937 at 09.00. Thousands of people were lining the roads between Kings Norton and West Heath and it was estimated that in Alvechurch Road there was some estimated 20,000 people, packed and all waiting for a glimpse of one of the most famous entertainers of the period.
Eagerly they stood, little suspecting their waiting was to be in vain because the route taken by the car carrying their idol had been planned so expeditiously, with police assistance, that only a small percentage of the crowd could have seen her at all. Indeed after she had been and gone it proved difficult to convince the waiting crowds that she had performed the opening ceremony and was on her way back to the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre.
The Bath Tub had been built in fields off Alvechurch Road to provide Midlanders with something different, and in the words of Percy Hollier, to be ”Birmingham’s brightest entertainment spot”. At the time it was in keeping with developments that were then occurring in the City of Birmingham with growth of housing estates, both private and council, in the outer ring areas, and to serve these new growth areas, shops, churches, cinemas and pubs, and other entertainment and social areas being provided. Also, in Britain in the late 1930’s the Health and Culture movement was gaining popularity; the “Times” in November 1936 had urged that a great national effort to improve the physique of the nation should be undertaken. Many women responded by joining the League of Health and Beauty and with facilities for swimming and physical exercises the new Lidos became very popular. (Bourneville Lido opened in 1937)
As a main feature “The Bath Tub” was comparible in size to the Empire Pool Wembley. – 180 ft X 90 ft. With depths varying from 14” to 14 feet under the diving stage. The whole width of the shallow end was approached by a shingle beach which rose to three semi-circular sun-bathing terraces.
Round the remainder of the pool there was a large terrace for bathers and a still wider terrace for spectators. The bather’s dressing rooms comprised changing accommodation for at least 10,000 people, and yet, despite it already being a large endeavour, the proprietor proudly declared, “The Bath Tub will never be complete because improvements and extensions will go on indefinately.”
Additional attractions were provided every week, either by world famous bands, competitions, mannequinn parades, galas or firework displays. The “Bath Tub” had a resident band, “The Bath K-nights” playing daily for entertainments and dancing, which was every afternoon, and evening with instruction and demonstration of the latest dance steps by Billy Socker and Dorothy Bethridge.
The ceremony to mark the opening of the “Bath Tub” was presided over by Mr Ronald Cartland, MP for Northfield and Kings Norton, and the entertainment started at 7.30pm with Mantovani personally conducting his recording and radio dance orchestra.
This was followed by swimming, diving and physical recreation displays until 9.00pm, when Miss Gracie Fields arrived to perform the official opening ceremony.
Gracie claimed her voice was bad and that she therefore could not address the huge crowd surrounding the pool but she walked to the top diving board and applied a light to the high – altitude rocket which shot in the air so opening “The Bath Tub.” Some of the newspaper reporters managed to get a brief comment “Ee lads this is grand. I only had a squint at the pool but it looks champion.”
OUTCOME: A very short life as a Lido, due to commercial failure. Closed 1939 and taken over by Eddystone Radio products, most of which were manufactured at the “Old Bath Tub” in West Heath Birmingham from 1940. Picture shows part of the architecture of the Bath Tub. In 1995 the lease on the premises at the Bath Tub expired and the company relocated on a small industrial estate in Selly Oak, within the City of Birmingham, ready to take up the digital challenge. Unfortunately the expected expansion didn’t materialise (nor has it yet done so in 2002).
Thank you Mr John Innes for helping with this. See Acknowledgements
1995 Up for Planning
Contribution received from Steve Beauchampe 28/07/16
West Heath Lido
Short lived it may have been, but Percy W. Hollier’s ambitious project in Alvechurch Road was the first such facility in Birmingham. Its 11 acres of grounds included a fun fair, dance hall, open-air stage and chalets as well as an archery lawn, putting green and children’s playground. The pool itself was the largest in Birmingham, measuring 180ft x 90ft with an aerator fountain as its centerpiece, two water chutes, a five board diving stage along with three semi-circular sunbathing terraces rising to a shingle beach and grounds beyond. Accommodating 10,000 the Bath Tub, as it was commonly known, was opened at 9:00pm on July 1st 1937 with great fanfare by Gracie Fields, who climbed to the top of the diving stage and lit a high altitude rocket. An estimated crowd of 20,000 were entertained by Mantovani and his Orchestra from 7:30pm, with ceremonies presided over by Ronald Cartland, MP for Northfield and King’s Norton. There was also an appearance by the Daily Telegraph (?) comic strip cartoon character Jane. Resident band were the Bath K-nights, with dance instruction provided by Billy Sale and Dorothy Bethridge. Hollier declared that: “The Bath Tub will never be complete because improvements and extensions will go on indefinitely.” Not helped by the onset of hostilities in 1939, West Heath Lido wasn’t a financial success and closed just before the site was requisitioned for the war effort in late 1940, after which it became a munitions factory.